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Air Source Heat Pumps: Advantages and Disadvantages

Air source heat pumps are a renewable technology that can make your home more efficient and help to reduce your energy bills. Because air source heat pumps do not produce carbon emissions when operating, they are a much greener heating system than gas and oil boilers with the additional attraction of cheaper running costs.

But as most UK homeowners have relied on gas boilers for most (if not all) of their lives, asking them to switch to completely new heating technology is a big ask. If you have an old gas boiler which needs replacing and are trying to decide whether to replace it with a new gas boiler or an air source heat pump, this article will help you in your decision.

Here we explain air source heat pump advantages and disadvantages, and how much one is likely to cost.

What is an air source heat pump?

Air source heat pumps extract heat from the air outside your home. In the case of an air to water heat pump, a large fan is placed outside the home where it can draw in air. The natural heat in the air is compressed to increase its temperature, and the resulting heat is transferred to a cylinder of water. The heated water is then ready to supply your taps and for use in a wet central heating system. Air source heat pumps can still extract heat in temperatures as low as -25°C in some cases.

Air source heat pump advantages

Reduced energy bills

Air source heat pumps are highly efficient heating systems that have the potential to lower your energy bills depending on your current heating system.

Earn money through the RHI

The Renewable Heat Incentive pays homeowners that have invested in renewable technologies. You could be paid quarterly over 7 years which could potentially see you earn back the initial costs. It's worth noting that only air-to-water heat pumps are eligible, not air-to-air heat pumps, and the scheme will close in March 2021.

Eligible for the Green Homes Grants scheme

Air source heat pumps are included in the government's Green Homes Grant scheme which means that until March 2022 you can apply for a voucher of up to £5,000 (or £10,000 for low income households) to cover two-thirds of the cost of installation.

Green heating solution

Unlike gas boilers, an air source heat pump does not produce carbon when operating. It does use a small amount of electricity to run, but this can be reduced further by installing solar PV panels so it runs on clean electricity. You should also consider switching to a renewable energy supplier.

Operates all year

You can make use of your air source heat pump all year round thanks to many models being able to operate in very low temperatures. During the summer, an air-to-air heat pump can be used to circulate cold air through the home to help cool everyone down.

Easily maintained

Heat pumps are often referred to as 'fit and forget' technology as they require very little maintenance and can be left alone to heat your home. It's recommended to have the appliance serviced annually to make sure it's operating well.

Lengthy lifetime

The operating life of an air source heat pump varies depending on the model you have installed but many can last for up to 20 years, with some even stretching as far as 25 years.

Air source heat pump disadvantages

While an air source heat pump could be saving you a large amount of money each year through reduced energy bills, there are air source heat pump disadvantages to consider.

Retrofit installation can be difficult

Depending on the type of property you have, it may be difficult to install an air source heat pump system without significant changes which could be costly and disruptive. Some properties such as flats which do not have outside space, and/or do not have space for a hot water cylinder, will not be suited to air source heat pumps.

Some operating noise

Air source heat pumps can make some noise while operating, but it must be said that it is not generally considered to be a problem by homeowners living with heat pumps. If you are concerned about potential noise issues, your installer should be able to install the heat pump away from your main living areas and bedroom.

Cost more to run than A rated boilers

Air source heat pumps use a small amount of electricity to run, but electricity is 3-4 times more expensive than gas per unit. If you have an A rated boiler which is working well, replacing it with an air source heat pump could actually increase your energy bills.

Reduced efficiency in winter

The colder the air outside, the harder the heat pump has to work to extract heat. For this reason, heat pumps will use more electricity during the winter making them less efficient.

Home needs to be well insulated

As air source heat pumps produce hot water at a lower temperature than boilers, the property needs to be well-insulated to make it an efficient system.

May need new radiators or underfloor heating

The lower temperature of the water also means that many homes will need to install larger radiators or underfloor heating to increase the surface area of the heat delivery system.

Requires outside space

You need to have outside space for the heat pump itself, including a good amount of space around the unit to ensure it has an adequate supply of air. You will also need space for a large hot water cylinder inside the home. If the outside unit is placed somewhere where it will get a lot of sunlight the ASHP won't have to work as hard.

How much you could save with a heat pump

You could potentially be saving up to £900 on your energy bills each year by replacing your current heating system with an ASHP. Use the table below to find out just how much you could be saving by replacing your current heating system:

Existing Heating System Possible Annual Energy Savings
Old G rated Gas Boiler £400 - £465
New A rated Gas Boiler Increase of £35 - £55
Old G rated Oil Boiler £460 - £545
New A rated Oil Boiler Increase of £45 - £55
Old Electric Storage Heaters £800 - £900
New Electric Storage Heaters £465 - £545
Coal £425 - £525

From the table you can see that if you have a new gas or oil boiler with an ErP A rating installed, then you're better off sticking with what you've got. However, if you have an older boiler or one that runs on electricity or coal then you could be making considerable savings each year.

Even the most efficient boilers waste energy, often somewhere between 6-12% of the energy they use, while an ASHP produces 3 times as much energy as it uses. As ASHPs are powered by electricity, ensure that you're on the best energy tariff available.

How much does an air source heat pump cost?

Having an air source heat pump installed in a typical home can cost between £4,000 - £11,000. This may sound like a big price tag but when you consider that it could be efficiently heating your home for around 20 years with reduced heating bills, it will soon start paying for itself. Different air source heat pumps will have different prices attached to them, we've compared the most popular ASHPs on the market so that you can find the right one for your home.

Manufacturer Model Potential Price
Daikin Altherma 3 £6,000 – £8,000
Nibe F2040 £6,000 – £8,500
Samsung EHS Mono £1,750 – £4,000
Vaillant aroTHERM £3,000 – £7,000
Viessmann Vitocal 200-A £5,500 – £9,000
Grant Aerona³ £4,000 – £7,000
Mitsubishi Ecodan QUHZ £4,000 – £6,000
LG THERMA V R32 £4,000 – £6,000
Hitachi Yutaki S802 £4,000 – £6,000

Take a look at the Best Air Source Heat Pumps for more on top brands and average prices.

In addition, you could reduce the installation cost even further by applying for a Green Homes Grant. Depending on your household income, you could get a voucher for £5,000 or £10,000 to cover two-thirds of the installation cost.

Is an air source heat pump right for your home?

Homeowners living in an existing property who choose to install a modern A rated gas boiler can rest assured that they will have an efficient heating system that will be able to heat their home at high temperatures. Modern boilers are also much more energy efficient than boilers which were installed 10 or more years ago, and an air source heat pump could end up being more expensive to run. By installing a boiler, you will also avoid the need to replace radiators with larger models or underfloor heating. Get free quotes for a new boiler.

However, by installing a gas boiler you will still be contributing some carbon to the atmosphere, you won't be able to benefit from RHI payments, and your boiler is unlikely to last as long as an air source heat pump would.

If you're moving into a new build, your home is particularly well-insulated, or you will be improving insulation at the same time as installing an air source heat pump, it could be a great long term investment which could see your energy bills and carbon emissions reach a new low.

Get free quotes for air source heat pumps

We have a network of qualified ASHP installers across the UK. By taking a few moments to complete our simple online form, we'll connect you with up to 3 qualified and reputable installers in your area.

You'll get free quotes to compare, and there is no obligation to accept any of them. If you do decide to go ahead, you can be confident that you will be getting a competitive price on your air source heat pump.


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Adam

About the author

Adam

Adam is our resident home heating expert. His experience and advice has helped millions of customers improve the efficiency of their homes and save money.

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